User Experience. What is it?
When a user interacts with a system or a product, design is already at play - and too often that design has not properly identified who the users are and what it is they are needing to do.
User Experience (UX) Design is about designing processes, products, systems and entire organisations for and around the people who need to use them. That's why UX is really about Human Centered Design.
It can be utilised to identify and improve existing flaws in systems, but increasingly UX professionals are being brought into the design phase right at the start.
By considering all the stakeholders in a scenario, removing bias and not relying on assumptions, problems can be solved before they even happen with thorough research, questioning and testing. Coupled with good visual design, UX work can bring powerful and effective results.
UX at work
The Kaka is a native New Zealand bird. A recent breeding programme has resulted in more frequent sightings of Kaka in Wellington, giving the impression they are doing quite well, yet they remain critically endangered. Human feeding is a big problem for the birds. What kind of product could educate the public around the dangers of feeding Kaka? Using research to identify users and their behaviour, a web-based product was designed to help engage and educate.
UX designers have a multitude of tools at their disposal to solve the problems they face. From empathy maps, personas, roadmaps, surveys and interviews through to guerilla testing and observations, a user's experience is examined, refined and designed for.
To communicate data and statistics visually, the designer first needs to understand the data themselves, then find ways in which to inform an audience via visual design.
If somebody wanted to modify their behaviour, how could they better understand and manage their own anger? In this project, data was collected and tabulated over a period of time and results were represented visually in a striking yet meaningful and concise way. Angry outbursts were given their own visual identity, much like a logo, so that "pop out prompts' could be used, like signs and stickers, and placed in problem environments identified by the research. The resulting insights brought a deeper understanding of mitigating problems and facilitated change for the user.
How should earthquakes look?
To best visualise an earthquake, we need to first consider the experience before designing how it might look.
As a quake emanates from below the earth’s surface, a user’s experience of one is inexorably linked with this unsettling sensation.
In order to enable a user to quickly identify earthquakes close to their location and to visualise their frequency as well as comparative intensity, a design decision was made to depict the energy both below and above the earth’s surface. Accentuating the vertical scale of the quake events in this manner makes it easier to decipher the variation in intensity between the events.